For Women’s History Month, celebrated throughout March (but why stop there?), we look at some distinguished women from around the globe who are not as well known as they should be outside their individual fields. And, as a very Nameberry bonus, all of them also bear names that are also not as well used as they should be!
In 1922, Alaska Davidson became the FBI’s first female Special Agent at the age of 54, for which she earned $7 a day, but was fired when J. Edgar Hoover took over two years later. It wasn’t until 40 years later that the FBI Academy began admitting women. A rare place name, Alaska derives from the Aleut meaning “great land.” Could make for an intriguing choice if you’re seeking an untouristed place name.
Under the name of Indra Devi, Russian-born yoga teacher Eugenie Peterson was instrumental in spreading the male-dominated ancient discipline to Western civilization, attracting show biz students such as Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson. Eugenie is a soigné French name with considerable royal and literary ties.
Fabiola Gianotti (seen above)
A distinguished contemporary Italian particle physicist based in Geneva, she is currently Director-General of CERN, a leading international accelerator laboratory—the first woman to hold this position. Fabiola, a Roman saint name rarely heard outside Italy, boasts a rhythmic sound and a fab Fab nickname.
Fe Villanueva del Mondo
This Filipino pediatrician was the first woman admitted to the Harvard Medical School, in 1936, and founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines in 1957. Fe is the minimalist Spanish version of Faith, an eye-catching alternative to similarly pronounced Fay and Faye—and Faith.
Born in Prague, Gerty Theresa Cori was a Czech-American biochemist who was the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in science and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel in medicine. A lot of old nickname names can end in either ie or y, making this a nice switch on Gertie.
The first woman elected to serve a full term as a US Senator, Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway represented Arkansas for fourteen years and was the first female to preside over the Senate and to chair a Senate committee. Hattie is one of the cute vintage nicknames given on its own that have made a big comeback: now Number 488 and 250 on Nameberry, it was used by Tori Spelling..
A Texas-born journalist and activist who fought for the civil rights of Mexican-Americans, writing articles exposing the poor living conditions of Mexican-American workers. This Spanish feminine form of Jove, also an early saint name, is certainly peppy and, yes, jovial.
Lakshmi Sahgal was a revolutionary of the India Independence movement, a doctor who served in the Indian National Army, later serving in Parliament and running for President. Lakshhmi is a lovely Hindu goddess name that has become familiar here via a MadMen character and a few international celebs.
An American educator and humanitarian, Moina Belle Michael is best remembered for conceiving and promoting the idea of using red poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I. Rarer than Moira and Mona, Moina is nevertheless an authentic Irish name with various meanings—all positive—gentle, beloved and noble.
The daughter of a slave, teacher and fierce civil rights activist Septima Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that helped enfranchise and empower African Americans. And though originally used for a seventh child, you don’t have to be expecting your own seventh to consider this elegant Harry Potter name.